Friday, February 5, 1999
Extended day promotes town acquisition of White property
At the January 27 finance committee meeting, discussion centered on the possible town acquisition of the White property in the center of town, next to the library. It has recently come on the market and represents a possible site for town activities. Resident John Habbe, representing the group which provides extended day care for children, viewed the location as "both fantastic and terrible." He explained that it is fantastic because it's within walking distance of school and centrally located for drop-off and pick-up. It's terrible because the house needs extensive work, has limited room for expansion because of ledge and wetlands, and costs $350,000, which is well beyond their budget.
That didn't discourage Habbe from presenting architectural drawings of what they might do if the property were obtainable. He proposed a 3,000-square-foot post-and-beam barn located directly behind the existing house. Only the cupola would be visible from Bedford Road. Habbe estimated that the barn would cost about $200,000, since it has no bath, shower or kitchen. "But," he warned, "now we're up to $600,000, including $50,000 for site work. We'd take down the garage to provide space for a septic system. Also, we'd take down the chicken coop and blast away some ledge." More than one person in the audience believed that $600,000 estimate was too low.
"We'd prefer to be in town-owned property," admitted Habbe. "We hope that the town will want to take over the White property. We could share it with RecCom. There's no extended day care at night, weekends or in the summer, so RecCom could use it." Recreation commission chair Carol Peters agreed. "Extended day care should have as much support as the town can provide," she said. "Carlisle will want a recreation center in five to ten years. Location in the town center is very important." Peters added that they also need space for use by teenagers and seniors.
Minimal parking for library
Linda DiBiase of the Gleason Library building subcommittee was asked about use of the site for library parking. "It would only provide a minimal amount of parkingfive or six spaces," she replied. "It would involve filling wetlands, which need replication. For so few spaces, the cost is prohibitive." FinCom chair Charlie Parker asked ConsCom member Christine Bopardikar for a brief explanation of the replication laws. "You can fill a maximum of 5,000 square feet of wetland," she stated. "This must be replicated by one-and-one-thirdyou have to create more wetland than you filled. It must be contiguous and at the same ground level."
Since the area behind the White property and the library is already all wetland, it's not obvious how more could be created.
Selectman Doug Stevenson could not hide his skepticism of the whole deal. "We should look very carefully at what services we're going to bring into the public domain," he said, referring to the town's financial responsibility. He had previously walked through the White home and had some thoughts there as well. "I'm in the construction business. It will take $200,000 to make the White building livable. With public use, the price goes up. The town probably doesn't want to own that building." Stevenson admitted that the selectmen had initially considered the White property as a potential site for library parking, but now believed it "problematic" for the town to acquire. In response to a suggestion that the house be demolished, Stevenson chuckled at the predictable reaction if the town tried to tear down an historic building to put in a parking lot.
It remained only for Jonathan White, who has spent most of 45 years living in the house and now lives next door, to provide the final judgment. "I have concerns about the house being taken over by the town," he admitted. "We should keep it residential. You're really talking about a business with extended day care. This creep of business is destroying the character of the town. I'd be surrounded by the post office, senior housing, and day care." White confirmed Stevenson's evaluation of the building by admitting that the house has no insulation, the sills are rotted, and the roof leaks.
Habbe was still not discouraged. "Our preference is to be in the town center," he said. "We've had to buy a van to bus the kids around. Kids could walk to places like Carlisle Castle if we owned the White property." Habbe stated that they are presently located in Saint Irene Church and have a two-year lease that expires this spring. "We're happy in St. Irene's, but they could change their mind," he concluded. "We've had to move many times over the years."
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito